To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This day, July 4, is one that we share each year with millions of others who live in the United States of America and who continue to celebrate the preservation of independence and freedom. Throughout this land people will participate in ceremonies, prayers, parades, and family gatherings that will embody the life, liberty and happiness this nation has offered to so many.
It is also a day of commemoration, when we reflect on the ideals and principles that have fostered a free society and promoted human dignity. Intrinsic to the function and progress of this nation has been the recognition of the ability and potential of the human person. Each individual should have the freedom to grow, to achieve, and most importantly, to live in a peaceful and beneficial way. Certainly, our history shows that this has not been easy to attain or uphold. It has been a struggle to understand the implications of equality and freedom for all persons. However, we have had in this nation an intellectual and social environment that promotes dialogue, creates forums for the sharing of ideas, and allows people to speak freely from their experiences, beliefs, and knowledge.
The founders of this country cherished both freedom of thought and speech as they deliberated over the nature and shape of a new government. They examined the history of nations, both ancient and new, to determine what would endure. They engaged in serious debate over political ideas that would prevent tyranny, balance power, and rest the purpose of governance in the wellbeing of the people; and through intense and challenging dialogue, they were able to establish a unique and new nation,"conceived in liberty." Many of the founders knew that the task of shaping this nation would continue. New challenges would come, crises would arise, and the “more perfect union” would be tested. However, the nation would be preserved and grow stronger if ideas and perspectives could be shared freely.
As Orthodox Christians we know the importance of this freedom. First, we are thankful to live in a society where we are free to practice and share our faith. We gather in worship of the Triune God without fear of persecution. We offer ministry, build churches, and speak openly of our Orthodox faith with no thought of reprisal or violence against us. We are able to be witnesses of the truth, which through love, not force or violence, has a transforming and saving power. Second, we know that our faith is a commitment to a lifetime of spiritual growth, and that freedom to grow, to ask, to seek is essential. Yes, we look to our faith and the Church to give us guidance in a very challenging world. Yet as persons, we have the God-given ability to examine, reflect, and discern. Within the body of Christ, we have the potential to "all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ." (Ephesians 4:13) Here, in this country, we are free to do this—free to live in Christ, free to engage and challenge ideas and issues with the fullness of our faith, and free to extend to all the invitation of our Lord to find perfect life, freedom, and joy in Him.
On this Independence Day may we join with our fellow-Americans and with all who share our love for freedom in a commemoration of what this nation has given to us. May we also commit ourselves through our faith in Christ, our love for our Church and our lives in this country to the preservation and challenges of a political and social environment that upholds freedom.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America